forum focuses on need to protect Great Lakes
By Eric Fidler
The Associated Press
Published June 7, 2004
The time for studying the problems of the Great Lakes is
over and it's time to act, members of Congress testified
Monday at a congressional forum.
"We are long on studies and short on money, and I
would like to reverse that order now," said Rep.
Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill.
Emanuel and Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., have introduced a
bill that would authorize $4 billion a year for Great
Lakes restoration projects.
Kirk said Lake Michigan faces a growing threat from mercury
pollution, invasive species and polluted harbors. He called
for stricter enforcement of the Clean Air Act to lessen
pollution from coal-fired power plants, and dismissed
the notion that sound environmental policy was bad for
"We know that economic development and environmental
protection go hand in hand," he said.
The forum included six congressional members and was led
by Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn., chairman of the House Water
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who started the Great Lakes
Cities Initiative to foster cooperation among cities along
the lakes, told the panel the federal government needs
to coordinate its policy for the lakes instead of spreading
it among multiple agencies.
President Bush last month named a 10-member Cabinet-level
task force to coordinate Great Lakes cleanup efforts among
states, federal agencies and Canada.
The General Accounting Office last year found that 33
federal and 17 state programs spent more than $1.7 billion
on environmental restoration of the Great Lakes, but the
efforts were uncoordinated and the results difficult to
measure. A report by the new task force on cleanup coordination
is due next spring.
While Daley and the members of the panel praised Bush
for paying attention to the lakes, they said he has cut
funding for programs to help with water and sewer projects
and that another study and report is unnecessary.
"This issue has been studied to death," said
Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Ill.
Daley said the recent dumping into Lake Michigan and its
tributaries of billions of gallons of raw sewage by Milwaukee
and nearby towns was an example of why an overall lakes
plan is needed.
"That's a lot of garbage. It's going to float down
here," Daley said.
The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and six nearby
communities reported dumping 4.6 billion gallons of untreated
wastewater last month.
Tom Skinner, regional EPA director, said science has not
proven that Milwaukee's sewage causes beach closures in
Chicago. But he said Milwaukee could be fined for its
He said, however, that political pressure was more likely
to bring change than financial penalties.